I cannot in good conscience preach these scriptures without a disclaimer.
Our scriptures lament, encourage patient endurance through, and foretells of suffering, at times violent suffering, for the sake of the ‘Kingdom to Come’. However, this is NOT the emotional, mental, physical, sexual, or spiritual abuse endured in domestic relationships and sexual assaults for said suffering is NEVER for the sake of the ‘Kingdom to Come’.
Thus, I am wearing my ‘Preach Bravely’ shirt as a reminder that:
- We are to ALWAYS boldly, bravely preach the ‘Kingdom to Come’ and
- said ‘Kingdom to Come’ has NO space for violence, particularly domestic abuse and gender-based assaults.
Despite the disclaimer, our scriptures offer inter-weaving themes creating a tapestry of the ‘Kingdom to Come’ promoting self-awareness that fosters integrity and self-denial that incites transformation.
Jeremiah is a prophet who has reached his breaking point having suffered isolation, loneliness, insults, and rejection for the sake of the ‘Kingdom to Come’. This suffering is rooted in his obedience to God through proclaiming difficult truths, drawing attention to injustice and corruption, while demanding change. Those with privilege, wealth, and authority benefiting from the status quo prefer to ignore the message and oppose said prophets through isolation, slander, threat, or violence in order to maintain their privilege, wealth, and authority.
Jeremiah raises his voice with the prophets of all time to proclaim:
- Our worship, rituals, songs and praises are worthless without social justice, humility, loving-kindness, service, and sacrificial love.
- God loves ALL people, because God created ALL persons. Yet, God has a deep concern for the vulnerable who are under-privileged, impoverished, oppressed, and/or abused.
The prophetic voice is perhaps built upon another difficult truth.
The majority of our human suffering is rooted in our troubled world, a consequence for our complicity with sin. However, we are not called into a culture war of sorts because sin, as defined by Martin Luther, is being curved in on the self, or self-centeredness. Thus, sin is a lack of concern for the wellbeing of our human siblings and the entire creation. Sin is a lack of justice, compassion, mercy, and love. Sin is a lack of serving our human siblings, especially the most vulnerable who are under-privileged, impoverished, oppressed, and/or abused.
Although Jeremiah is exhausted, our Psalm will support his efforts to hold a mirror before our eyes. Our Psalm is seemingly dripping with self-righteousness, and yet the whole of the Psalm condemns said righteousness. Similar to the prophets, the Psalm demands honest self-reflection to become self-aware and foster an embodied integrity. This integrity is the integration of the good, the bad, and the ugly incorporated into a single, self-aware persona in thought, word, and deed despite lacking perfection and embracing our own need for God’s grace.
Jesus, rooted in his own integrity, shared a difficult truth with his inter-most circle of disciples. It is the truth that as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, he will go to Jerusalem in order to be arrested, crucified upon a cross until death, and resurrected three days later.
Peter rebukes Jesus. Why?
- The Hebrew Scriptures do not foretell of the Messiah suffering, for the Messiah was (and remains in Judaism) a political figure who reunites the tribes of Israel.
- Perhaps, Peter cannot handle the idea of Jesus, his beloved Rabbi and friend, suffering crucifixion.
- Perhaps, Peter feared that Jesus condemned would result in a loss of his privilege and authority.
Despite the reason, was it necessary for Jesus to rebuke Peter with the words ‘Get behind me, Satan’?
Satan was not a little red man with horns, a tail, and pitchfork…
that is Sparky, the ASU Sun Devil.
‘Satan’ was not intended as a name, but it is the Hebrew word for ‘adversary’.
Thus, a satan or even an anti-Christ is simply one who opposes the ‘Kingdom to Come’.
Jesus had encountered a satan prior to his public ministry while in the wilderness, who desired for Jesus to abuse his divine authority for human benefit. Jesus, however, resisted the bait and instead fed the hungry, healed and restored vulnerable persons in mind, body, and soul while opening the ‘Kingdom to Come’ to ALL persons.
Jesus knew the path paved with his public ministry of proclaiming difficult truths and drawing attention to injustice and corruption while demanding change. Jesus knew that those persons with privilege, wealth, and authority would violently demand his life in order to silence him and destroy the revolutionary movement he had incited.
But now, Jesus hears the lure to change direction and turn his back on the ‘Kingdom to Come’ from the lips of his beloved friend, his first called disciple, the ‘rock’ whose confession the church is built. Thus, Jesus rebukes Peter but neither rejects him nor criticizes his humanity, instead Jesus not-so-gently reminds him of his place. Peter, as a follower, belongs behind Jesus who will lead him (and us) upon the right paths to the ‘Kingdom to Come’. Besides, Jesus does not need us or our egos to protect him from the consequences of his ministry.
Jesus’ path modeled a self-denial in his public ministry, among his disciples, through his passion, and upon the cross which all persons are called to emulate. We will fail miserably, and yet this self-denial incites a transformation in us and also our troubled world. This self-denial speaks the difficult truths to power, draws attention to injustice and corruption, and demands change for the under-privileged, impoverished, oppressed and/or abused human siblings rooted in a genuine love.
According to Paul, this genuine love fulfills the law for it does not do harm to another and it will transform us and our troubled world. This genuine love:
- stands against forces opposing love and hospitality such as intolerance, prejudice, and hate;
- clings to said forces of love, hospitality, and hope;
- shared affection towards ALL persons that is warm and devoted with sincere concern;
- shows the upmost honor and respect to ALL persons;
- sustains a bright soul eager to love and serve ALL persons, especially the vulnerable other;
- serves ALL persons confronting our sin, destroying injustice, and ensuring needs are met in body, mind, and soul whether loved ones, enemies, or the “other”; and
- Blesses ALL persons abandoning the desire for vengeance or the cursing of any persons.
Unfortunately, this self-denial and genuine love can result in isolation and loneliness, insult, rejection, and persecution as foretold, encouraged to be endured with patience, and lamented within our scriptures.
May we embrace difficult self-reflection that leads to self-awareness.
May our self-awareness develop into an embodied integrity.
May our integrity be rooted in love and self-denial for the sake of our most vulnerable human siblings.
May our self-denial transform us and our troubled world into the ‘Kingdom to Come’.
And may our suffering for the sake of said ‘Kingdom to Come’ be minimal.
Scriptures were Jer. 15: 15-21; Ps. 26: 1-8; Rom. 12: 9-21; and Matt. 16: 21-28.
Originally preached 2020-08-30 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).